How you dress your windows can have a big impact on the overall look of a room, but picking colours and materials is just the tip of the iceberg. Often, one of the biggest decisions will be choosing between curtains or blinds (although sometimes a combination of the two is best), but even this isn’t just a question of aesthetics, as it’s important to consider functional practicalities and maintenance too.
After all, we don’t just dress windows to make a style statement – it’s also about privacy, controlling the flow of light into a room, and keeping heat in and draughts out. So, where do you start?
1. What ‘look’ are you after?
“For many people, choosing between styling windows with either blinds or curtains is a tricky decision. Curtains often provide a more traditional, elegant style in the home, while blinds tend to look more chic and contemporary,” says Adele Shotton-Pugh, resident interior designer at home furnishings retailer, Terry’s Fabrics (terrysfabrics.co.uk). “If you’re trying to keep the costs down while decorating, blinds often come at a much lower price, especially for larger windows, but the right blind will still add the perfect finishing touch to your room.
“If you’re looking to add an element of luxury and warmth, curtains may be the best option. However, if you prefer simplicity and contemporary style, you might want to consider investing in blinds. You could also think about combining blinds and curtains to completely block out any unwanted light, and make a stunning style statement in your window.”
For some, the soft, flowing finish of curtains will always seal the deal. Curtains also offer the option of creating a ‘layered’ effect, with a sheer net or voile curtain providing privacy and a heavier curtain on top to frame the window and complete the look. In a classical setting, a heavy curtain that cascades and gathers at the floor can add depth and impact – as well as helping trap heat and block out sound and light.
That said, the options for blinds are now vast, with designs to suit all needs and tastes. “While blinds come in lots of different types – from rollers and Romans to verticals and venetians – there is also a huge choice of colours and fabrics to choose from as well. Even venetian and vertical blinds have patterned options,” says Mike Stephen, director of Apollo Blinds (apollo-blinds.co.uk), who also allow customers to select their own fabric, send it to them, and then have the blinds made up.
2. Will they be easy to clean?
Generally speaking, blinds will be easier – and cheaper – to clean than curtains, depending on the type of fabric used (there may be some curtain fabrics you can wash at home).
“While most curtain fabrics will need to be professionally dry-cleaned, the majority of blinds can be cleaned at home (with the exception of Roman blind fabrics, that need to be dry-cleaned),” says interiors expert Lorna McAleer from Style Studio (stylestudio.co.uk). “You can dust most blinds regularly with a soft cloth on both sides to get rid of any dust build up. For venetian blinds, a feather duster is convenient to get in between those awkward slats.
“For blinds that require a more thorough clean to remove stains, roller, vertical and pleated blinds can usually be sponge-cleaned. Just check the fabric properties with your retailer to be sure your blind is suitable for this method.”
3. Are they suitable for the room?
This is mostly a consideration when it comes to bathrooms and kitchens, where there tends to be a lot more moisture in the air, and possibly a faster build up of grease and grime.
“With all the grease and dirt from food preparation, plus high levels of humidity in kitchens from cooking, laundry and washing up, there are lots of easy-to-clean window blind options. Moisture resistant coatings can also be applied to fabric blinds to prevent the growth of mould and mildew,” says McAleer. “To stand up to the humid atmosphere and to fit with specialist doors/windows perfectly, pleated blinds are hard to beat in the kitchen, and can be made to measure in all shapes and sizes. Colour looks great at kitchen windows. For a fresh look, why not match up blinds to existing kitchen accessories?
“Aluminium and wood effect venetian blinds are easy to wipe clean and won’t harbour germs, dirt or smells, so they’re a great option for the kitchen. When not in use, venetian blinds pull up almost out of sight, so won’t to interrupt garden views. Roller blinds are great for bringing pattern and personality to the kitchen.”
Lucy Shore, creative designer at Swish (swish.co.uk), adds: “As well as the overall look, considering the impact that everyday moisture will have on your chosen blind is vital to ensure it stays looking good. The beauty of aluminium venetian blinds is that they can simply be wiped dry when needed, avoiding the issues of warping, as you often see with wood, or the dark, mould patches which can plague fabrics.”
4. Do they offer enough light versatility?
In the bedroom, you might want something that totally blocks out the light when you’re sleeping – if you want a light/pale curtain, there’s always the option of fitting a discreet black-out blind underneath. But consider whether you want something that gives you the option of controlling light too; this is where blinds can come into their own.
“Blinds featuring blackout fabrics can be made-to-measure and expertly fitted to ensure there are no gaps of light coming in through the window. One of the newest types of blackout blinds are BlocOut Blinds, which are said to achieve higher levels of darkness than ever before. They combine a superior quality blackout fabric with a frame (precision-engineered side rails and a bottom bar) that the blinds slot into. This ensures the window is fully covered with nowhere for the light to enter,” says Stephen.
Many blind designs – particularly those with slats, or motorised blinds that allow you to ‘open’ particular sections as desired – give you the option of adjusting light control throughout the day. This might be handy in rooms where you want to remove glare (while watching TV or using a computer, for instance), but still allow some sunlight through, or similarly where you want natural light but a greater degree of privacy than you’d get with net curtains.